The Ricky Jay Collection

The Ricky Jay Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 332. (Learned Animals, Horses) | An early playbill advertising an accomplished horse .

(Learned Animals, Horses) | An early playbill advertising an accomplished horse 

Auction Closed

October 28, 08:54 PM GMT


8,000 - 10,000 USD

Lot Details


(Learned Animals, Horses)

Operazione Meravigliosa D’un Cavallo. Milan: [Giacomo Angelo] Nava, [ca. 1618]

Letterpress broadside playbill (404 x 238 mm). Printed in Italian within a floriated border, crude woodcut of the horse jumping through eight hoops; not examined out of frame, old folds, soiling, right edge and lower corner supplied, mostly affecting the border, a few words clipped. Framed and glazed with Plexiglas. 

This is a very early example of an illustrated sheet used to advertise a specific performance—a playbill, in other words. This broadside advertises an unnamed horse's performance in Milan, where he demonstrated a mastery of English, French, and Italian; he told the time in those languages, performed card tricks, and pretended to be dead, lying on the ground until prompted to rise. The horse collected money and fetched wine (my kind of horse), and drank to the health of the audience. 

This accomplished animal would jump through four, six, or eight hoops (as seen in the woodcut). Further distinguishing this equine showman, he was said to be particularly respectful and solicitous of the ladies in attendance. 


Exemplars, p. 260; EE, pp. 18-19